Gordon Ramsay does not fear a challenge and his innumerable stints in Hell’s Kitchen and Kitchen Nightmares are a testament to his strong will and tongue. But there is one dish that the British chef could not win against. In 2021, Ramsay was in the third season of his National Geographic show Uncharted. The show was about him traveling around the world, learning about the varying cultures and their cuisines, exploring the food there and talking to the experts and chefs, and then having a face-off with the local chefs. It was during this quest that Ramsay found himself in the Nordic country of Iceland, and on the island was a challenge he couldn’t win.
Iceland’s traditional food is not for the weak-willed
Iceland is culturally distinguished by its self-sustainability and being an island country, seafood obviously plays a central part in the cuisine, but Icelandic seafood is worlds apart from the general idea of it.
The citizens of Iceland celebrate a yearly festival called Thorrablot every mid-winter. A celebration of the country’s history, food, and culture, revived in the 19th century, it once used to be a pagan sacrificial event.
One of the star dishes of this festival of food and culture is hákarl, and it is not food for the weak-hearted. Hákarl, to put it simply, is fermented shark meat. Sharks around Iceland can grow up to 24 feet and thus are a great source of meat, except for one hiccup. Shark meat is poisonous. And that is why the people couldn’t just hunt sharks and roast their meat over the fire.
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But almost a thousand years ago, the Icelandic Vikings found a way to detoxify the poisonous meat. According to The Daily Meal, the process includes, “cutting it into large chunks, placing it under rocks, and burying the whole mess in the dirt for many weeks. Then, they’d remove the meat from its hole in the ground and hang it to age.” And this arduous process left what is now called hákarl.
Although after the toxins give way, there is still a lot of residual uric acid which leaves a pungent ammonia-like smell, and the aftertaste has reportedly been equated to that of urine.
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Gordon Ramsay couldn’t beat this kitchen nightmare
On his Uncharted trip to Iceland, the 56-year-old chef introduced the segment starring hákarl.
“I’m in Northwest Iceland sampling a pungent slice of fermented shark that I’m not convinced is meant to be eaten”.
After this, Gordon Ramsay tried mentally preparing and psyching himself up for tasting the dish. But as soon as he put a small piece in his mouth, he instinctively spat it out. He had to take a moment before he could describe how he felt. He then claimed, “My nose got all fizzy.”
He was offered another smaller piece which he politely declined, adding, “But that’s not about you, that’s just my taste.”
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Source: The Daily Meal